Aberdeen Eyes Options for Ray's Mill Pond
The Aberdeen Parks and Recreation Department held a public hearing Thursday to hear input about potential recreational activities on a 32-acre parcel of land recently acquired at Ray's Mill Pond.
The department hopes to make the property Aberdeen's fifth park and eventually use the area as a connecting point for a greenway system of trails leading to areas all over town, including Malcolm Blue Farm, Bethesda and the historic downtown.
The hearing was part of the department's application process for an N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant, which would help the department preserve the site's natural elements and enhance the property for recreational activity.
Parks and Recreation Director Leigh Baggs sees a great deal of potential in the property.
"It looks like we have a good project," Baggs said. "We would like a great project."
The property, which includes 14 acres of natural space and an 18-acre pond, is on the corner of Saunders Boulevard and Bethesda Road. The town has already been making improvements to the two houses on the property since it acquired the land July 28.
A property assessment conducted by the N.C. Natural Heritage Program found that the area has a variety of wildlife and plants and is ideal for wildlife observation. The pond needs dredging in order to remove silt and sand deposits that have accumulated over time, as well as debris and trash found at the bottom of the lake.
"It has been neglected for several years," Baggs said. "We need to do some draining and dredging in order to get the wildlife down towards where people can fish."
The assessment also concluded that the habitat was ideal for rare species of water plants, including the Sandhills arrowhead, a species native only to Moore and Hoke counties.
Several residents who live near the property also spoke about the variety of wildlife living in the area.
Alicia Jackson lives on the south side of the pond and does species counts of birds around the property twice a year. This past year, she found 90 different species.
The Parks and Recreation Department has already received several suggestions about recreational amenities, including trails, boat access, scenic overlooks for observing wildlife, an environmental education center and a picnic shelter. The environmental education center would ideally be located in the larger of the two houses on the property. The building could also be used for storage of equipment, and meetings and events.
"You get a gorgeous view of the water behind the buildings," Planning Director Kathy Liles said.
With an environmental education center on site, Aberdeen would establish a satellite location for the N.C. State Parks System to implement educational programs about wildlife and the environment.
The department also hopes that the smaller house could serve as a caretaker's residence.
Though the grant is for recreational uses, the town is also placing emphasis on the preservation of the property's historical elements.
The property was once the site of the county's only operating mill -- Ray's Mill. The mill was also the oldest in the county and provided materials to help build much of Aberdeen during the 1800s.
"The wood that was milled there went to construct the Old Bethesda Church," Baggs said.
Baggs also said that records show the property is a site of a Civil War battle.
Some residents suggested that reconstruction of the old mill be part of a long-term plan for the site. They also recommended that the town consider purchasing more property adjacent to the site for more recreational space around the pond if the opportunity arises.
The Parks and Recreation Department will continue to accept suggestions from the public through the end of the year. The Town Board must approve the application for the grant at its Jan. 11 meeting.
Anyone interested in offering ideas and suggestions about the use of the property can call the Parks and Recreation Department at (910) 944-7275.
Hannah Sharpe can be reached at (910) 693-2485.
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